Karnataka assembly debates, but doesn’t vote; speaker sets new deadline

The fate of Karnataka’s wobbly coalition government hung in the balance on Monday night as the debate on a trust vote in the assembly entered its third working day and the speaker summoned rebel lawmakers whose resignations have pushed the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) administration to the brink of collapse.

The debate dragged on in the assembly well into Monday night with impatient Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members pressing for an end to the discussion, which began on Thursday.

Despite assurances by speaker KR Ramesh Kumar in the morning that the vote would be held during the day, the House was adjourned around 11.40pm without the floor test being conducted. Kumar promised that the trust vote will be held by 6pm Tuesday.

Two previous deadlines set by governor Vajubhai Vala for the vote were already breached on Friday. By Monday night, only five of the 26 MLAs scheduled to speak on the motion have finished their speeches.

“Everybody is watching us. Please don’t make me a scapegoat. Let us reach our goal,” Kumar said.

But pandemonium soon broke out with BJP legislators demanding a vote, and coalition MLAs asking the speaker to first decide on disqualification petitions against the rebel lawmakers. As tempers rose, coalition members shouted slogans saying, “We want justice, we want discussion,” forcing Kumar to adjourn proceedings for a while.

Former CM and BJP state president BS Yeddyurappa reminded the speaker of his commitment. “You had assured us that the vote would happen on Monday and we will sit here till late night, even past midnight, till the vote happens,” he said.

CM HD Kumaraswamy snubbed rumours of his resignation and said, “I got information that I have tendered my resignation to the governor. Someone has forged my signature. I’m shocked at the cheap publicity.”

The government slipped into a crisis two weeks ago after 16 lawmakers — 13 from the Congress and three from the JD(S) — resigned. Since then, one Congress MLA has signalled he would return to the party fold and two independent legislators have withdrawn support to the coalition. Kumar is yet to take a final call on accepting the resignation letters. As things stand in the 225-member assembly, the BJP has 105 members, the Congress-JD(S) coalition has the support of 100 MLAs, excluding Kumar. There are 15 rebel MLAs, two independents and one MLA from the BSP, while another is a nominated member. If the resignation letters of the rebel MLAs are accepted by the speaker, the government would be in a minority.

The day began with Kumar ruling that whips issued by respective parties would apply to the rebel legislators. In an interim order, the Supreme Court said last week that the MLAs could not be compelled to attend the session but the speaker said as the parties were not part of the case, it didn’t apply to them.

The rebels, who have been camping in a Mumbai hotel since last week, have been asked to be present in the speaker’s chamber at 11am on Tuesday for a hearing on the disqualification petition filed against them by their respective parties. The SC is also likely to hear on Tuesday a petition by the two independent legislators against the speaker.

The coalition fielded rural development minister Krishna Byregowda as its main speaker. Byregowda sought to show that the resignations submitted by the rebel MLAs were not voluntary.

While Byregowda was speaking about one of the rebels, Congress MLA Roshan Baig, and his alleged involvement in the multi-crore IMA scam. BJP lawmaker CT Ravi pointed out photos of Kumaraswamy dining with Mohammed Mansoor Khan, the founder of IMA. The CM dismissed the charge and said he had gone there on Baig’s insistence.

First Published: Jul 23, 2019 00:57 IST

Updated: July 23, 2019 — 1:11 am